Today Alex offered to pre-make some dinners for me since he is working from the Bay Area this week. I decided to take him up on his generous offer and gave him a recipe I’ve been meaning to try: Springtime Barley & Mushroom Soup from Anna Thomas’ Love Soup. Other than substituting chicken broth for veggie broth and adding a little more fennel than the recipe called for, he followed the directions (right down to the creme fraiche at the end!) perfectly. I’m as happy as can be knowing I have this delicious springtime soup waiting for me at home this week. Not as good as Alex himself, but it’ll do for a few days…
Springtime Barley and Mushroom Soup
(serves 6-7 but he doubled it)
2/3 cup pearl barley
8-9 cups basic light veggie broth (Alex used chicken broth)
2 TB olive oil
1.5 cups chopped leeks, white part
12 oz white button or oyster mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz fresh green asparagus
1 large fennel bulb
2 TB chopped fresh dill, plus more to taste (I’m not a dill fan yet I love the soup.)
2 TB fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
optional: dill sprigs, creme fraiche
Rinse the barley and combine it in a medium soup pot with 4 cups broth. Simmer it over very low heat, covered, for about an hour, or until it is tender.
Heat a TB of olive oil in a nonstick saute pan and cook the leeks over a medium flame until they are just soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir the leeks into the barley.
Rinse the mushrooms and slice them thinly, cutting them in halves or quarters first if they are large. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and stir the garlic over a medium flame for a minute or two before adding the mushrooms. Salt them lightly and saute them until they sizzle and begin to color, about 10 minutes.
Trim the asparagus and slice the stalks thinly, at an angle. Cut the trimmed fennel bulb (discard the middle part) into wedges lengthwise, then slice the wedges thinly crosswise.
Add the mushrooms, asparagus, fennel, and dill to the barley and leeks, along with 4 more cups broth (we only added 3 more cups since the mushrooms put out so much broth on their own). Simmer the soup, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until all the veggies are tender but not mushy. Stir in the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the soup with dill sprigs or a spoonful of creme fraiche. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature before adding to plastic/glass containers to eat later.
Another way: The book says to try this soup with fresh morels if you can find them. There will be more work in cleaning the wild mushrooms but the soup will be fantastic.